Quentin Tarantino, of such great character films like Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill has completely re-written the Enzo G. Castellari story of the U.S. soldiers in WWII occupied France for his remake of the 1978 cult classic The Inglorious Bastards. Having little to do with the events of the original, QT wove one very well written and directed film that I have to say right off impressed me thoroughly.
PREMISE: Brad Pitt leads a team of Jewish American soldiers in France to carry out one simple order: spread fear throughout the Third Reich by ” killin’ Nazis”. Teaming with members of the French resistance, they prepare to execute a secret order that will, should it yield a success, end the war in one night.
HIGHS: Always constant in a QT film is the supremely well crafted writing and the conversations between characters. Inglourious Basterds‘ opening scene did a wonderful job of setting up the look, the style and the direction of the film. Similar to the calm and close angle diner scenes in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, just the simple conversation had such a gravity, a sophistication and an intensity that just kept building to a suspenseful climax.
One strength of this film was that nearly every static conversation setting in this film was a tension filled, impressively acted plot advancing device. I have to say that this movie has the best writing of Quentin’s career and it was just compelling to see the exchanges between characters. Some scenes were done so well that it was mystifying to see just how close to the breaking point some characters came when being grilled by the Gestapo or by the main heavy in the film Col. Hans Landa who hands down stole the movie. Come to think of it, most of the movie was people sitting at a table chatting up impressive dialogue. Another high point that was really an unexpected and pleasant surprise was the smart humor that got laugh after laugh with just the way things were said sometimes. A lot of the dialogue probably wasn’t written to get the amount of laughs that I heard in the theater I was in but, when you have very smart humor, it is very subtle and the pay off is always big, so I really appreciated Quentin’s efforts in that respect.
As far as the particular actors go, Brad Pitt’s turn as Lt. Aldo Raine had the funniest lines of the film. But, like I wrote above, the lines may not have had quite the humorous effect had they been delivered by another actor and it was Pitt’s attitude and accent that really sold the dialogue. Pitt, in my opinion, has been increasingly improving from movie to movie and his likability factor (that was mostly attributed to his accent in this one) just shot up and up and up, even in the more gruesome and irk-inducing mutilation scenes. Also Eli Roth (who I have no idea why he would have made a film like Hostel) was such a great addition in an almost supporting-role to his supporting role. His turn as the feared “Bear Jew” city boy accent was paired off effectively in contrast to Pitt’s Tennessee accent. Roth’s own lesser (but still respectable and funny) role was, in my mind, overshadowed and outdone by himself, no-less, playing a disguised Italian at the end of the movie which just made me laugh. In a movie as serious as this, the humor was well placed and welcomed.
Finally, (and more impressive and noteworthy than anything mentioned above) Christoph Waltz (playing Col. Hans Landa) was the most impressive, riveting and feared character in the entire film. Speaking 4 languages, and invoking fear with everyone of them, each character he had an exchange with he very coyly played the part of a sheep and the wolf, walking the fine line between the two and never letting on when he would strike. His acting hands down brought the intensity level waaay up and to me he made the movie. Sure Ingluorious Basterds would have been a successes on its own, but he put the icing on the cake in a big way.
LOWS: The only real problem I had with this film is that it was so unfaithful to the original (which Quentin admits so many times to loving) so I don’t know why he would have done a top to bottom rewrite. But now after seeing both films, I can see why he wanted to rewrite it. I have to say that this film is far superior and the story line works so much better after QT’s re-write. Also, if you ever saw the original film quite a lot of the characters (well nearly everyone) died and, much the same with this one, it was a little upsetting to see some characters, that were very likable, die sooner than you would have wanted them to. Also as far as talent, Diane Kruger, who was completely lovable in National Treasure didn’t seem to fit in this film. She is German by birthright and she could speak the languages in this film but she didn’t really stand up to the acting talent of the people she was on screen with. Everyone else pulled their weight but Diane seemed to be the weakest link. She fared better in the scenes with Pitt and Roth but in scenes with Christoph Waltz, and August Diehl she was not up to the task.
In terms of Quentin’s direction, I personally don’t like how he breaks up his film into chapters. It seems to suggest that we’re not able to comprehend the erratic changes in his story without being told what’s going on. Call me a stickler for a linear plot line (and being that Quentin’s films rarely fit that bill) but he meanders at times makings his films fairly unbalanced. Lastly, and I might be the only one who thinks this but, there was a bit of dialogue spoken by Christoph Waltz in the beginning of the film that seemed borrowed, if not out right stolen, from the Ryan Gosling The Believer, but maybe it just an unintended coincidence.
RULING: This by far is QT‘s best film to date. He seems to have hit his stride and this film had no boring parts whatseover. Some might complain about the length, the over-the-top action factor, the gruesomeness of what is nearly a Nazi ‘snuff film’, and even I complain about his unformulated style, but everything in this movie worked, and worked well!! Despite his acquired taste, Tarantino is a gifted storyteller. I will agree, it is just a little long, however, in order to tell a story, flesh out characters and make it all compelling, sometimes you have to take the long road. This movie was one hell of a ride…even though, funny enough, most of it was done sitting down at a table. In the end, it was all worth it. Seeing this and District 9 on the same day was a treat to see the 2 best movies of 2009, but so far I think this one takes the cake. One final note, a great number of people started clapping after it was over in the theater I was in and that hasn’t happened to me in a movie in quite a few years…outstanding job Quentin!
G-S-T Ruling: 5/5
G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED…This ‘extraordinary’ film is a Great Cinematic Treasure.